|BARRY HINCHCLIFF. PAINTER, ART TEACHER
Barry Hinchcliff is a seemingly earnest man with a wry underlying sense of humour and an endless fund of stories derived from a lifetime in art. Now in his sixties, he is a well established painter and retired art teacher whose work can most simply be described as 'impressionistic'- high key canvases, frequently of mediterranean landscapes, bright in mood and hue. Among many other activities he runs a weekly evening class in Rottingdean, just outside Brighton, which I attend and enjoy.
Barry describes himself as a 'northerner', born in Yorkshire and raised
in Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Even at the age of five he knew he
wanted to be an artist - "it was all I ever wanted to do"
What was London like in the early fifties?
Barry arrived before it became the swinging mecca of a decade later,
when postwar drabness prevailed, lightened by increasing optimism. Coming
from a close-knit northern mining community he found the atmosphere of
the Kings Road in Chelsea, where the college was situated, and where he
lived, "absolutely mindblowing".
2-He was very much 'a lad from the north', which was then light miles away culturally and artistically, but at the same time was a source of rich inspiration in its own right. In London aspects of prewar Bohemia survived; the Chelsea Arts Club was still preeminent; the eccentric bearded figure of Augustus John, in black hat and flowing cape, was frequently to be seen. Barry's own contemporaries were exotic and cosmopolitan - Malays, a Nigerian prince, the sculptor Elizabeth Frink, with whom he shared a kitchen; Australian expatriates were turning the Earl's Court district into 'Kangaroo Alley'. These were the days of coffee bars and Jazz clubs, and pubs like the King's Head. George Melly was already making his unique presence felt and Barry himself played jazz cornet (rather badly) for a while alongside some fellow Chelsea students who later enjoyed fame as the Temperance Seven. It was a more innocent, more affirmative age, but a good time to be an art student.
...And it came for an end, as for so many of his generation, with national
service in the army. "A complete waste of time", says Barry dismissively,"I
just wanted to paint." The most obvious career choice for someone in his
position was teaching, and this became his profession for the next
thirty four years. He is a natural teacher, with the right combination
of dedication, authority and responsiveness to the needs of each individal
student. "I love watching people develop in their own way", he says.
He began work as a supply teacher in a mining village before moving south,
to teach in London and Essex.
So How did Barry come to Brighton?
He had known and liked it from Chelsea days, and when his mother moved
down here in 1957 he came down too. Initially jobless, he soon found employment
teaching at a time when there was no shortage of such work. Eventually,
in 1963, he became Head of Art at Longhill, a new school not far
from Brighton, where he stayed until his retirement. Once settled in Brighton
he had time to spread his wings artistically. He had his first show in
1963, at the Rushbrook
3-Gallery in Hastings, and subsequently exhibited at two Brighton galleries, the Axis and the Rushton, and other venues in Sussex. Through meeting the Afro-American Surrealist artist Hughie Lee-Smith, he had a show of watercolours in Princeton, New Jersey.His work diversified in other directions too, and throughout the eighties he designed opera sets for the Regency Opera. Later he was to exhibit at the Royal Academy with a landscape of France.
Because of its proximity to the continent, Brighton has always had a cosmopolitan flavour, and one of the major influences on young life in Brighton during the sixties was the arrival in August of French students, with their style and sophistication. Barry is an ardent francophile, and spends summer holidays in Provence,where Mont Sainte Victoire, forever associated within the history of art with Paul Cezanne, has been a favourite source of inspiration. He says he would happily live in France if he did not live in Brighton.
So what's so special about Brighton?
Barry finds it difficult to know where to begin to answer this! Quite simply he loves it for its unique atmosphere, its tolerance,where nothing stays the same and anything goes. He loves idiosyncratic architecture like the West Pier and laments the shoddy treatment of the Hanbury Arms, a unique Indian-style building in Kemptown originally intended as a family vault for the Sassoon family. One aspect of the town that he deeply resents is the homelessness which he regards as "obscene", and every month he does a soup run, "to help out".
In retirement now, Barry Hinchcliff is as busy as ever. He runs many popular classes locally and his work is widely sold, in The West Country as well as here. At the same time, painting in his studio overlooking the English Channel, he remains deeply committed to his own creative vision.
"An artist's life is deeply satisfying," he says, "a privilege, and
magical at times. Occasonally it gives you access to the inner forces of
|Hotel balcony at Sidmouth, Devon. Painting
showing wife Brenda and son Jonathan in 1973/4 on a family holiday in october.
ÒAt this time I was interested in including the sun in my painting.
The complementary colours and curved outlines provided the basis for the painting.Ó
Many offers have been made for this work but it means a great deal to the family and they refuse to part with it. Jonathan, the little boy,will soon be thirty.
|Part of a series of paintings of the Seven
Sisters, a range of cliffs on the Sussex coast not far from Brighton. It
has slightly sinister overtones because it is near Beachy Head, a notorious
suicide spot, and because of the downward movement of the dark crevices.
View of Mont Sainte. Victoire, Provence, from near Le Tholonet, painted in 1993 from a watercolour. This scene is famously associated with the great French Post Impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne.
ÒThe predominant colours - yellow ochre, burnt siena, viridian and prussian blue - are pure Cezanne. I like to think he painted this view from a vineyard about 100 yards from the road Aix-Puyloublier.
He would have known the road well as it leads to the base of Mont Sainte Victoire.
I spent several hours painting in the area.
|Portrait of Linda. inspired by her very bright cardigan.|